The buzz around baseball this week has been about the rule changes proposed by Major League Baseball and it’s Players’ Association. The most controversial idea has been the adaptation of a universal designated hitter, pitched by the union as a way to help get older sluggers more jobs. This would impact the National League teams specifically since they would need to find another starting position player instead of batting for the pitcher. While traditionalists are heavily against this idea, one team that could really benefit from the addition of the DH in the NL is the New York Mets.
The DH likely isn’t coming in 2019, but the Mets are well equipped to handle it in 2020 and beyond. The Mets received rightful skepticism when they were willing to take on the five years left on 36 year old Robinson Cano’s contract, specifically since they’d have to find a home for him in the field once his defense starts to decline. If the DH is implemented in the NL, Cano can fill that role as his bat figures to age more gracefully than his glove.
The Mets could also use the DH to try and find enough playing time for their deep roster of infielders. At the moment, the Mets have Jed Lowrie, Cano, Amed Rosario, and Todd Frazier in line to start with Jeff McNeil and Peter Alonso fighting for playing time. A DH slot would be beneficial for the Mets, especially if Alonso’s defense doesn’t develop to the point where he can be relied on as an every day first baseman. Alonso’s power is his calling card, and the DH could be an avenue to keep his bat in the lineup.
Another use for the DH the Mets could take is to help keep Yoenis Cespedes healthy. Cespedes has a history of leg injuries and is expected to miss at least half of this season recovering from heel surgeries. This is a big problem for the Mets, who have been significantly better in terms of won-loss record if Cespedes plays than when he doesn’t. The DH would allow the Mets to keep Cespedes’ bat in the lineup without making him play the field six days a week, keeping him fresher and healthier going forward.
General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen has been a forward thinking guy since he succeeded Sandy Alderson, and it seems like some of his moves have been designed with the understanding that the DH would eventually become universal. This would put the Mets in a much better position to adopt the DH than some of their competition, giving them a leg up in the early days of adaptation. That leg up could be key to maximizing their window to win with a talented young pitching staff, specifically before Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard reach free agency.